It’s no secret that drinking is a huge part of college culture. This is something that is almost global and something I, personally, can attest to. Before coming to Stony Brook, I attended two other universities, one of which was in Europe.

My freshman year I went to a school called University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, the Netherlands. Middelburg may be considered a city, but don’t expect towering skyscrapers. You would be more likely to find a group of elderly women biking than a businessman on his way to a meeting.

The school itself was an honors college, and therefore only required three years and had about 600 students enrolled in total. Because of this, it was really easy to get to know your peers, and the school ensured you would during the “introweek.” Every incoming class had to take part in a week full of school-designated and -created activities that helped familiarize yourself with the city and get to know everyone.

This brings us to the first difference between Europe and America: drinking. Every day during introweek ended with a party until 2 a.m., with alcoholic drinks, of course. If the evening didn’t end in a bar down one of the cobblestoned alleys, it would be at the school bar. Located in the basement of one of the school buildings, Elliot, the bar was soundproof as to not disturb the elderly neighbors who often complained.

One of the last nights on introweek included a pub crawl across the city so that we could familiarize ourselves with the bars. Each bar had a different activity, such as an air guitar contest while standing on a pool table or giving the bartender a lapdance. Not something you’d find nowadays at a Stony Brook event, to say the least.

Since the drinking age in Europe is 18, I was able to partake in everything, including the school-hosted parties every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Upon coming to America, however, I had not turned 21 until this past November, thus limiting the activities I would have been able to partake here.

I tried not to get involved with underage drinking, but a majority of social gatherings I went to had booze. So I did consider myself a social drinker because I cannot say I did not drink, but I really only did so when it felt like it was required in order to partake and be part of the group I was with. It was limiting in the sense that I would minimize hanging out with my friends as to not be a “buzzkill” for saying I didn’t want to drink due to age restrictions.

Now that I am of age, I decided I wanted to experience some of the late night American college life. Being here at Stony Brook, I also decided I should go to to the Bench at least once before graduating.

Thursday evening came and I busted out my best outfit to get ready for a girls’ night out! Okay, obviously not:I had it on good authority to wear shoes I didn’t “mind having drink and other mysterious liquids spilled on.” That already should say enough about the atmosphere of the Bench. Overall, though, I really liked my night out.

Upon walking into the bar, I already noticed the first difference: getting carded at the door. In Europe, there really isn’t any carding (and that is if you get carded at all) until you buy a drink, which brings us to another point: paying to get into the bar.

The only other time I paid to get in a bar was because a frat had rented out said bar and was charging to raise money for programs. Don’t let the term “frat” fool you, though — it was a wine bar and we paid 5 euros for unlimited wine: a bit different than the frat parties America is known for. I guess I’m just not used to having to pay to just get into somewhere, especially somewhere that is not prestigious and not in a major city.

Another difference I noticed was the music. While at the Bench, a majority of the songs could fall under rap and hip-hop; in Europe, the type of music played was either pop or EDM. Either way, it’s not hard to dance to even if it isn’t your preferred genre.

As a woman, there were some personal differences I can attest to as well. Firstly, Thursdays at the Bench are “Ladies Nights.” I’m not sure how this really differs that any other night besides women being encouraged to come with a promise of free drinks (after paying to get in, so it’s not really free, is it?) Is there a quota of women they’re trying to reach every night? I don’t know, but it’s still pretty ridiculous to me.

Now onto the worst part of my evening. Never in all my life, in any bar I’ve ever been to, have I been approached or groped as much as when I went to the Bench. This is not to say there aren’t sexual harassment issues anywhere besides America, because there definitely are. I don’t know what makes American boys so much bolder or why anyone would think it’s okay to just grab a stranger and pull them against you, or grab a cheek while they walk by. Perhaps the worst part was, I just accepted it when it happened as a “whatcha gonna do?” moment.

Going out anywhere should be a fun experience, whether it is getting some drinks with friends or going crazy at a club. What I learned from my experience here in America is that as with anything, the night is what you make of it. While I mentioned many of the negatives of going out here, I had fun because I was with friends and spending time with them. I went out with an open mind knowing it was going to be different, so I really didn’t have any expectations besides just being able to spend time with people I’ve grown close to these past semesters. And finally, to my ladies out there, if you don’t feel comfortable, walk away. Just because there’s alcohol involved, doesn’t mean you should just accept it.

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